Chants of “No ban, no wall, New Yorkers for all” and “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here” echoed across Washington Square Park tonight as the New York chapter of the Council of American Islamic Relation — a civil rights organization — called for love and action from thousands of protesters gathered in solidarity under the arch.
The demonstration is the result of President Donald Trump issuing executive orders on immigration earlier today. The directives will suspend refugees from entering the country for a period of time, halt the issuing of visas from seven Muslim-majority countries, and encourage “immediate construction of a physical wall” on the US-Mexico border. The order will also limit federal funding to sanctuary cities such as New York. More executive orders limiting immigration are expected to be signed in the coming days.
CAIR created the event “Emergency Rally for Muslim and Immigrant Rights” less than 24 hours before it was scheduled to start and over 8000 people indicated they would attend on Facebook.
After Executive Director of CAIR-NY Afaf Nasher introduced the event, elected officials took to the podium with words of support for immigrants, refugees and Muslims. Congressmen and women cited the executive orders signed by President Trump as examples of oppression, racism and xenophobia that must be overcome.
One of the city officials that spoke to the crowds was NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer. He said that as he works with the financial dealings of the city, the crowd should be aware of the economic importance of immigrants.
In his impassioned speech to the crowd, Stringer said that President Trump’s treatment of immigrants demonstrated a lack of understanding of their financial importance in the U.S. Stringer explained to those listening that immigrants are responsible for 83,000 businesses in NYC; 44% are in finance, 50% are in medicine and 54% are in entertainment. These businesses generate $100 billion per year for the city.
“Trump, you idiot, you don’t understand economics 101,” Stringer said to the cheering crowd. “This city would not be able to operate and function without the immigrant community. Those are the facts. As a Jewish American I want to see a united world and the best way to do that is to dump Trump and take to the streets.”
Gallatin senior Mackenzie Leighton was watching the protest from beside the fountain with another NYU student. She said that she had initially just stumbled upon the rally, but stayed because she cares about the issue.
— Sayer Devlin (@metties) January 25, 2017
New York City’s Public Advocate Tish James said Trump’s administration was “Too male; too pale; too stale.”
John Muller, a first year student at NYU’s School of Law, said that his experience serving in Iraq and depending on Iraqi soldiers and civilians inspired him to support refugees.
“As a law student, I’m now working to help an Iraqi refugee family gain entry to the United States,” Muller said. “The executive order Trump has proposed would keep them trapped in a country where they’ve already been displaced from their homes and stripped of their property for helping the United States government.”
Muller said that he attended the rally to show support for the immigrants, Muslims and refugees.
“I was gratified to see so many people turn out to send a message that we as a country care about people,” Muller said. “We care about immigrants and refugees. We care about Muslims. And we welcome them.”
Jamila Jahangir, a freshman in LS and a member of MSA, said that when she heard about CAIR’s emergency rally she thought it was going to be a small crowd of Muslims and that she hoped some non-Muslims would show up.
“When I arrived and stood in a spot, I realized I was surrounded by so many different people,” Jahangir said. “After seeing me take a photo of an anti-Islamophobia sign, a lady who was giving them out tapped me on the shoulder and gave me a warm smile. She asked me if I wanted one. She even said it was okay if I didn’t want one! I was touched by her kindness.”
“How could I doubt that my city would pull through for me? And even if it was just a crowd of Muslims, why couldn’t I be proud? I was reminded tonight of the uniting power of human kindness,” Jahangir said.
Email Jemima McEvoy and Sayer Devlin at [email protected]